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Exercise now for rock climbing later

November 18, 2018

It’s a definite maybe.

You may still be able to do some rock climbing yet this year, or you might not, depending on where you go and what conditions exist there.

Alpine Adventures in New York says its rock climbing season generally runs from late April through mid-October, for example. But there are exceptions.

“We have climbed warm, dry rock in the Adirondacks during all 12 months of the year, but it has taken almost twenty years to find a warm day in every month,” reads its website.

Other places are a little more reliable for perhaps a little while longer.

Smith Rock Climbing School in Oregon climbs until Thanksgiving many years.

One thing is certain, though. And it’s true all over the country.

You can’t climb any time — in spring, summer, fall or later — if you’re not in condition to do so.

That’s where training comes in.

Climbers and would-be climbers need to focus on two things primarily: strength and technique.

But it all begins with being lean, or at least as lean as possible. The more you weigh – especially in relation to how strong you are – determines how smoothly you can climb, and for how long.

“If you’re carrying an extra 10 pounds (or more) it will make climbing less efficient,” says REI, the outdoor co-op retailer.

Climbers who shed that little extra fat need then to work on what’s known as “local endurance,” or – as climbing.com describes it – “a muscle group’s ability to sustain effort over a period of time.” Climbers achieve success primarily using a strong core and lower body. But local endurance training promotes blood flow and strengthens forearms, so that climbers can hang on for longer periods of time.

Training with fingerboards – which are just what they sound like, boards that offer the chance to hang by your fingers alone – is one aspect of this. It’s a bit different than most muscle training.

According to metoliusclimbing.com, “tendons build up slowly and are easy to injure,” so while you want to push yourself, it’s best not to go too far too fast.

Beyond endurance, spend time building up what climbers refer to as “power,” too. Power training readies your body for those moments – short in duration but critical – requiring a big move.

“Power training develops maximum strength, which you need for performing especially hard moves,” says rockandice.com.

Fortunately, a lot of training is done by, you know, actually climbing. Specifically, climb indoors, in winter, on a climbing wall.

“There is no substitute for time spent climbing,” says the website theadventurejunkies.com. “It is well-accepted that one of the best ways for new climbers to improve is to spend more time climbing.

“While training will definitely provide gains in strength, power, and power endurance, building baseline endurance in conjunction with good technique will make you a better climber.”

Actual climbing offers the chance to refine technique, too. Climbers can replicate what they expect to do outside, be it bouldering, or climbing without a rope or harness; top-rope climbing, which is climbing while anchored to rope overhead and is good for beginners; or lead climbing, which is most like sport climbing outside.

You can experiment with all three indoors, in one setting.

So, if you want to climb later, the time to start getting ready is now. You’ll end up leaner, stronger and capable of reaching new heights, literally.

Bob Frye is the everybodyadventures.com editor. Reach him at 412-216-0193 or bfrye@535mediallc.com. See other stories, blogs, videos and more at everybodyadventures.com.

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